In psychology, stress is a feeling of strain and pressure.  Stress can be external and related to the environment, but may also be created by internal perceptions that cause an individual to experience anxiety or other negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure, discomfort, etc., which is deemed as stressful.  Stress is a condition that causes disturbance in our field of consciousness.

Humans experience stress, or perceive things as threatening, when they do not believe that their resources for coping with obstacles (stimuli, people, situations, etc.) are enough for what the circumstances demand. When we think the demands being placed on us exceed our ability to cope, we then perceive stress.

When you look at it from the point of view of threat, challenge, obstacle, or self-image, stress is caused due to a basic fear, fear of failure to deliver a result on time, fear of a challenge to our sense of well-being, fear due to self-doubt in our ability to deliver upon request, and fear resulting from a perceived lack of security related to savings or our ability to provide for the family.

Stress is a body’s method of reacting to a challenge. When we experience stress, the sympathetic nervous system activation results in the fight-or-flight response and produces its cocktail of chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol.  Because the body cannot keep this state for long periods of time, homeostasis, return of the body to its baseline physiological conditions occurs due to the actions of the parasympathetic nervous system.  In humans, stress typically describes a negative condition that can have an impact on a person’s mental and physical well-being.  Excessive amounts of stress may lead to bodily harm causing an increase in the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental disorders such as depression.

Most of the stressors in our lives are minor stresses that will eventually add up to create a sense of anxiety or even fear and eventually manifest in physiological disturbances requiring medical intervention.  This category includes daily annoyances and minor hassles such as making decisions, meeting deadlines at work or school, traffic jams, and encounters with irritating personalities.  Often, this type of stressor includes conflicts with other people. Daily stressors, however, are different for each individual, since individual perceptions of the exact same event are as varied as the individuals themselves.  For example, most people find public speaking to be stressful, but no so for a stand-up comedian or a seasoned politician.

Stress is a non-specific response that varies from individual to individual, varies with the state of mind of the individual even when two separate situations are identical, and varies with the relationship we have with the other individual. It is all about the context of the individual and how they perceive the situation.  Therefore, stress is not the external event itself, but rather an interpretation and response to the potential threat; this is when the coping process begins.   Most individuals deal with stress in a predominant coping style that could either minimize the situation, or exacerbate it.

Because stress is perceived, change of perspective is one of the most effective and long-lasting methods of eliminating stress that is non-invasive and non-chemical dependent (pharmaceutical, addiction).  Perspective is a function of our belief systems and information input.  Change of perspective requires us to examine our belief systems, and monitor the information that we consume.  This requires self-awareness and introspection.  Then introspection allows you to understand your perspective about the situation.  Self-awareness helps you understand your thoughts, emotions, triggers and how they combine to create stories, meaning, and interpretation.  Self-awareness is the ability to observe the thinking mind and the ability to observe and monitor your thoughts and accurately label your feelings.

The stress is an indication that we have reached the limits of our tolerance.  To increase tolerance requires change, change to learn new behavior, get rid of old behaviors, and learn to stay with and experience discomfort.  The situation is a gift, and opportunity to learn something new.  This may require you to learn new skills, take time off work and go on a vacation.  Embrace the situation, accept it and by doing so the resistance drops and the feeling of stress is lessened if not gone.

From the angle of yoga, stress elimination requires the practice of Kriya yoga.  The steps of Kriya yoga are as follows:

  1. Svadhyaya or self-study – The first step is introspection that involves digging deeper to understand our emotional state, the root cause of stress, the change that is desired and the path of change.
  2. Tapas, or discipline – This is the preparation part that entails yogasana, pranayama (breathing exercises), and Dhyana, or meditation. Meditation is essential for introspection and self-awareness.
  3. Ishwara Pranidana, or dedication of our efforts for a higher purpose – This helps us understand the “why” and also suppress the ego that causes our mind to become over-confident.

About Kammitment:  Led by scientist and life-coach Kamalesh (Kam) Rao, Kammitment helps you realize and make a commitment towards self-actualization, through tailored leadership coaching, workshops and programs for students and professionals in all stages of their lives, by drawing upon the time-tested principles of Yoga and Mindfulness.  Kam has spent 20 years as a scientist and a manufacturing professional in the pharmaceuticals industry, and continues to consult with the industry.  In his free time he leads executive coaching programs for Fortune 100 clients.  A certified Yoga instructor, Kam lives in Oakland, CA and is an Improv actor who also enjoys Salsa dancing when he is not perfecting the next Pretzel pose in Yoga.  For further information, please email [email protected]


  2. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda, published by Integral Yoga Publications (1990).
  3. Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study & Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras by Jaganath Carrera (2005)


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